‘The Cold Heaven’ and ‘The Wild Swans At Coole’ AH Notes
The Cold Heaven
‘The Cold Heaven’ is written in Alexandrines (lines of approximately six feet) and with these longer lines seems to depart from the very rhythmic and melodic metrical schemes of his earlier poetry. This is appropriate for his aims as the subject matter, which is an introspective examination of the poet’s own conscience and feelings of responsibility for ‘crossed’ love, lends itself less to melody and more to a direct kind of voice. The poem is written in twelve lines of alternate approximate and perfect end rhyme.
Enjambment and caesura are used effectively at various points in this poem, placing particular stress on the words ‘heaven’, ‘driven’, ‘Vanished’, ‘stricken’ and ‘Riddled with light.’
Ending the poem with a question is a particularly powerful device that reinforces the mystery of death and the depiction of a tortured soul released from its body but not from remorse. The final word of the poem is ‘punishment?’ which is an idea that is central to the poem.
‘cold and rook-delighting heaven’ contains a metaphor and an epithet – the first conveying the idea of an indifferent heaven, or sky, and the second conveying the idea of a heaven, or sky, that solely serves the purpose of providing pleasure for ‘rooks’. Both suggest the remoteness and distance of the sky, the heavens, the rest of the universe from humans, and support the assertion of its ‘injustice’ given at the end of the poem. The second line develops this with the oxymoron of ‘ice burned’ that ‘seemed all the more ice’ – both ice and fire being inhospitable to human physical existence; this suggests the pure, clear, blue, cruel, foreign indifference of the skies.
When Yeats, after he has ‘taken all the blame out of all sense and reason’, is ‘riddled with light’, we get the impression that the poet feels both vulnerable, internally exposed, but also possibly that there...